The average cost to educate a student is $10,000. That total goes up to $15,000 to educate someone with severe disabilities. With the state decreasing base level funds, schools are looking at ways to cut costs. Special needs programs could be dramatically affected.
Terry Spradlin, Director of Education Policy at CEEP, says overall school corporations will gain $90 million next year because of changes in the funding formula. However, that doesn’t come close to restoring cuts made last year when districts saw their budgets slashed by $600 million.
Funds are going to have to be redistributed and Spradlin says there’s no perfect solution. “When we talk about Special Education funding, those students receive supplemental funding. There’s additional funding in the formula for those students,” he said. “The ongoing political debate– how much is enough?”
The exact amount of adequate education needs per student isn’t known. “That’s an ongoing debate in the state and there’s not an easy solution,” Spradlin said.
Janie Jones is the Special Education Director in southern Indiana. In the five counties she oversees; Orange, Lawrence, Jackson, Martin, and Greene, 2,500 students are enrolled in special education classes. That number has grown steadily, but the number of teachers has not.
“We have had a decline in our funding for the last three years, which obviously does take away,” Jones said. “We had to decrease some staff.”
Spradlin says the 2012 state budget includes $505 million for K-12 education plus a half of a percent increase in 2013. Spradlin adds that funding is lean for some school districts and they’ll be forced to make tough decisions.